Over at the Prospect, I've written an essay about my Jewish upbringing, and what I was and wasn't taught about the history and politics of Israel. This is a piece that's been percolating in my mind for years, so I hope you all check it out. As a bonus, you get to read about my childhood rabbi who was arrested for driving while high. You can't make this stuff up.
Raised as a Conservative-movement Jew, it was not until college that I learned about Israeli history — written by Jews — documenting the stories of the 800,000 Palestinians displaced by Israel's founding. At synagogue, I heard nothing about the daily lives of the nearly four million stateless Palestinian Arabs living in the lands seized by Israel after the Six-Day War of 1967.
Hebrew School taught me that Israel was the Jewish people's answer to the Holocaust, and that its open immigration policies for Jews would prevent the occurrence of another genocide. In medieval and early-modern Europe, laws often prohibited Jews from owning weapons or serving in the military. One teacher told us that Jewish men were regularly forced to stand by, idly, as Gentile brutes raped their wives and daughters. But in Israel, the Jewish people would no longer be weak, effeminate, or intellectualized. In Israel, we became sabres, or prickly pears — still sweet and loving internally, but proudly tough and dangerous on the outside. In Israel, we would have machine guns.